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What is Buruli Ulcer – Symptoms, Cause, Diagnosis and Treatment

Mycobacterium ulcerans is a pathogen which infects the upper layers of the skin in humans. A toxic substance released by it mycolactone. It suppresses the immune system and causes the healthy cells of the body to undergo programmed death or apoptosis. Buruli ulcer is the technical name of the infection caused by this mycobacterium. It is a treatable disease. But, very little is known about this ailment. It affects people mostly residing in 30 poor countries of the world. As a result, the reported cases are very less. This article tries to gain further insight on this topic.

The exact mode of transmission of the disease is not yet understood. Slowly flowing ponds, swamps and lakes are the areas where the pathogen Mycobacterium ulcerans thrives. The disease can affect people of any age. But, it is mostly found to affect children below the age of 15 years. The ulcer in 90 percent of cases develops in the lower limbs.

Buruli Ulcer

Symptoms of Buruli Ulcer:

  • Painless hard abnormal structure on the skin
  • Pimple on the skin
  • Infection on the face or abdomen in children
  • Painful swelling of the skin
  • Fever
  • Physical trauma
  • Gross deformities of the bone
  • Massive ulcers with undetermined borders
  • Permanent disabilities seen in 25 percent patients

A method of diagnosis of this condition is appearance of ulcer in the epidemic area. A scientific technique called polymerase chain reaction can be helpful in confirming the disease.

A biopsy technique called histopathology is also carried out involving the study of the tissues from the affected sites of patient’s body under powerful microscope.

A potent diagnostic technique to find this ailment is required badly. Most of the time, this condition strikes in remote corners of the affected countries and it is a challenge to provide diagnostic techniques to the people of secluded regions.

Treatment of the Infection Caused by Mycobacterium Ulcerans:
A combination of drugs rifampicin and streptomycin/amikacin given for eight weeks is the most effective treatment as the guidelines of the World Health Organization.Surgery must be carried out to remove the parts of the affected limbs by ulcers

Skin defects and deformities of the bone can also be removed by this surgical intervention. The chances of recurrence of buruli ulcer post surgery are 16-30 percent. However, intake of anti-biotics reduces the chances to 2 percent.

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